Journalism And Relativism

What will happen now in the liberated streets of Iraq? There are more questions than answers, but one thing is certain: journalists will continue their pose of relentless negativism.

The U.S. has just won a spectacular military victory and rid the world of a hideous dictator. But we dare not celebrate. Why, the army is "allowing" the looting of museums! Ahmed Chalabi is a Western puppet! And then there's this amazing scandal: some Christian humanitarian groups are coming to Iraq with food...and dare we say it...Bibles!

Why are journalists puzzled by their unpopularity? David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times is one of the befuddled, and recently reported that he received more e-mails about "unpatriotic" news outlets than any other topic this year. Shaw quoted Time managing editor Jim Kelly attacking Fox and MSNBC for having the audacity to "plant the flag on their screens and try to stick a waving flag on virtually everything that moves, and the subtle implication is that the network has gone to war as well, on the side of the U.S. troops." Shaw concluded that the very fact that journalists died in the task of serving readers and viewers puts the lie to "unpatriotic" charges.

Wartime journalism is not by definition patriotic. Reporters can do stories that are both unpatriotic and completely inaccurate. Just ask Peter Arnett.

On the contrary, journalists seem afraid of accusations of patriotism. The liberal media culture urges them to bend over backwards to avoid the appearance of "cheerleading." But when the actual news is incredibly encouraging, the gap between their doom-saying approach and reality becomes glaringly obvious. They look like they're hewing to an opposite extreme. Call it gloom-leading: the method is not merely to question, but to rain hostile fire on every vulnerability suggested by the latest news developments. Successes are quickly glossed over, while failures are feasts.

Shaw failed to note that Americans have witnessed a gloom-leading shame at the expression of those things they hold dear. When American soldiers plastered the Stars and Stripes on the face of a Saddam statue in Baghdad, millions of Americans cheered at our success and Saddam's shame, a picture-postcard image of his ignominious defeat. The media, on the other hand, were horrified. The flag to them is not a symbol of democracy and freedom, the success of the American experiment, a sign the good guys have arrived. It is a goad, a tool, a provocation, a craven business tactic, a political blanket that closet authoritarians wear like a cloak.

Viewers and readers can sense that reporters don't believe in the superiority of Western ideals. They are relativists who don't believe in the moral superiority of anything, with the potential exception of themselves. They see love of country as a primitive notion not to be embraced by the enlightened. They believe that Americans espousing their political ideals on the world stage is the most oafish expression of bad manners.

This same relativism is extended to love of God, particularly when the subject is Christianity. Thus, it becomes controversial in the eyes of the press when Christian aid groups land in Iraq to offer not just food and medicine, but the gospel of Jesus. The underlying supposition is that Christian proselytizing is an affront to the Islamic world. But if that's true, why isn't Islamic proselytizing in America just as much an affront to Christianity?

Steve Waldman, a former Newsweek reporter and Clinton aide who now runs, even asserts that what Franklin Graham's group Samaritan's Purse is planning - sharing the gospel with the aid - is "immoral." That's not even Waldman's worst: Beliefnet posted an interview with Rev. Graham followed by an April 2 column from Waldman. The piece ran under a banner headline, "Who Does Bush Fear More?" accompanied by photos of Franklin Graham...and Saddam.

This has to be one of the dumbest journalistic questions of all time. (Beliefnet must agree, because when World magazine exposed it, they pulled it off their Web site). It is also so enlightening. It illustrates the worldview of a journalism community mired in the quicksand of moral relativism, where the anchors of the American experiment - love of freedom, love of God - are to be viewed at all times with the greatest of skepticism.